The highlights are oh-so plentiful, so let's get right into breaking this down, so you know where to be.
Friday: Blues royalty with Soul royalty opening up at Red Butte Garden on what's hopefully a warm, clear Friday night. Why no, it doesn't get much better than that.
Mavis Staples, of Staples Singers fame, is 71, but is also touring behind one of her stronger releases in several years. "You're Not Alone," which was produced by Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy came out in February and contains several excellent songs including the Tweeedy-penned title track. Even if you don't have many Staples Singers releases - which is a sad situation if true - if you've ever owned a TV and seen a commercial, it's likely you're familiar with at least some of Mavis' well-known hits.
In what may be a unique pairing in their long careers, Staples will open up for Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy. If you've never seen Guy, but think blues music tends to be lethargic and repetitive, allow the legendary bluesman to set you straight. Having seen Guy multiple times since 1989, I'm here to tell you that he's routinely enthralling and often over-the-top. And wait for his time-tested maneuver of walking thorough the crowd while he plays a blazing guitar solo. Works every time. Especially when you're bad-ass enough that Eric Clapton loves telling interviewers that Guy's the world's best guitar player.
Here's a look at both of them, including footage of Buddy blowing up a Jimi Hendrix song, who happened to list Buddy as a key influence:
Saturday: One of the best venues in Salt Lake City, the grassy area due east of SLC's Main Library, gets its annual featured night of usage on Saturday. Why the powers that be basically only use this site one night a year - in addition to hosting relatively minor shows during the rest of the Utah Arts Festival and Living Traditions weekend - remains a mystery. So, basically the annual fund-raising show is the grassy lawn above the parking garage's one night to really shine. This year should be a real treat with Maine's country-soul troubadour Ray LaMontagne headlining. His backup band, the Pariah Dogs, are part of the reason that LaMontagne's 2010 cd "God Willin' and The Creek Don't Rise" is such a solid effort.
People also buzz about LaMontagne's two openers, Brandi Carlisle and The Secret Sisters. This promises to be a fun night on the lawn.
Here's Ray singing a real weeper, "Jolene."
Sunday: The Righteous Babe herself, Ani DiFranco, hits Red Butte Garden. (And no that's not a sexist comment, that's the name of her DIY record label she founded back in the early 90s) Ani will headline what should be a top-notch of folk music over at Red Butte Garden when she teams up with one of her influences, Greg Brown.
Most folks are relatively familiar with DiFranco, but Brown's the secret weapon on this bill as the unassuming Iowa folk singer has written more terrific songs than most singer-songwriters ever devise. Yeah, Brown's that good. Brown's latest "Freak Flag," continues his long string of touching, cutting-edge folk.
Here's an old Ani classic, "32 Flavors."
Also, this week:
Thursday: A chance to get your '90s on when rockers Cake play a sold-out gig at Red Butte Garden.
Sleepy-eyed Texas folkies Okkervill River will be at The Urban Lounge along with buzz-band Titus Andronicus, who may be the more compelling reason to take in this gig. It should be a crowded, steamy night in the UL.
Saturday: Rock-solid indie rockers, The Black Lips, will be at Urban Lounge, along with Cerebal Ballzy
Sunday: A rare chance to head to USANA Ampitheatre and check out a guy playing drums upside-down. Yep, Motley Crue's in town with Tommy Lee's latest toy. They'll also have a bizarre opening combo of Poison and the New York Dolls. One of these bands was seminal influence on countless bands and largely invented '70s glam rock. The other features Brett Michaels.
Whatever you do, have fun and we'll see you out there.
Follow Salt Lake Magazine arts/entertainment writer Scott Murphy on Twitter @murphyinfo.